A sumo wrestler stretches before battle—but will it be in the ring or on the track? (Photo: Nakatani Yoshifumi/WikiCommons CC BY 2.0)

The sumo wrestler physique is not normally associated with the 100-meter dash, but who’s to say it shouldn’t be?

We normally picture the iconic Japanese athletes battling head-to-head rather than side-to-side. To win in the sumo ring, the rikishi (wrestlers) must push each other out of bounds or force their opponent to touch the ground with something other than their feet. The Japanese characters for sumo translate literally as “striking one another.”

There is no striking in a track sprint, except perhaps the striking of the foot on the ground. But a trio of professional sumo wrestlers in Wakayama, Japan recently took to the track and gave it a whirl, testing their swiftness against one another.

The mawashi wrestling belts on sprinters Kento Amakaze, Tatsuaki Kaiho, and Kanata Takatenshu managed to stay put while they hurtled forward, though one of the belts began to slide off at the finish. The three sprinters—aged 20, 23, and 24—have an average weight of 418 pounds. Friends, fellow wrestlers, and other onlookers cheered and laughed from the stands as they galloped towards the finish line. They’re no Usain Bolt, but you wouldn’t want to get in their way, either.

Sumo is far more hands-on than sprinting. (Photo: BradBeattie/WikiCommons CC BY-SA 3.0)

After the short break from practice, the sumo wrestlers went back to the ring to continue preparing for an upcoming tournament, a formal competitive tradition that goes back to the mid-1600s. Since 1958 there have been six Grand Sumo tournaments a year—perhaps this year’s will feature a track race component.

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